sabzah nau-rustah rah-gu;zaar kaa huu;N
sar u;Thaayaa kih ho gayaa paa-maal

1) I am newly-sprung greenery of the roadway
2) I no sooner lifted my head-- than I became foot-trampled



S. R. Faruqi:

He has composed this theme several more times. In the second divan [{983,8}]:

ham is raah-e ;havaadi;s me;N basaan-e sabzah vaaqi(( hai;N
kih fur.sat sar u;Thaane kii nahii;N ;Tuk paa))imaalii se

[we are fallen/situated in this road of events like greenery
for there's not even a little leisure to lift our head from the foot-trampling]

From the third divan [{1291,7}]:

juu;N ;xaak se hai yaksaa;N meraa nihaal-e qaamat
paa-maal yuu;N nah hote dekhaa giyaah ko bhii

[somehow it's the same as the dust, the young-plant of my stature
one has never seen even grass being foot-trampled in this way]

From the fifth divan [{1720,5}]:

ham zard kaah-e ;xushk se nikle hai;N ;xaak se
baaliidagii nah ;xalq hu))ii is numuu ke saath

[we, like yellow dry grass, have emerged from the dust
flourishingness was not created with this growth]

These three verses are all good, and in all three the theme has been versified with some changes. But the terseness in the present verse, and its cool neutrality, differentiate it from the rest of the verses.

In the second line there are two utterances, and both are in the past tense; but the interpretation applies to past, present, and future, all three. Such a meaningful use of a verb, and that too in a smallish line, is proof of artistic accomplishment.

Here the word 'foot-trampled' is very appropriate, because in the first line by saying 'roadway' he has established a 'proof' of it. Then, paa-maal is in its dictionary meaning, and also in its idiomatic meaning (that is, 'trampled under a foot' and 'destroyed, ruined'). In {983,8}, paa-maal has only one meaning. In {1291,7} it has both meanings, but the second meaning isn't as manifest as it is in the present verse. It should also be kept in mind that all three of these above-cited verses are based on similes, and the present verse is based on three separate metaphors.

Jur'at too has composed this theme. But his verse is verbose, and it doesn't have the dramaticness of Mir's second line:

gulshan-e aafaaq me;N juu;N sabzah-e nau-rustah aah
;xaak se yaksaa;N hu))aa huu;N rah-ravaa;N ke zer-e paa

[in the garden of the horizons, like newly-sprung greenery, ah!
I have become equal to the dust, under the feet of travelers]

Mir Mamnun has directly adoped Mir's theme. His verse doesn't have any special excellence either:

sar u;Thaate hii male ham mamnuun
;xaak me;N sabzah-e shaadaab kii :tar;h

[at the moment we lifted our head, we were trampled, Mamnun
in the dust, like fresh moist greenery]

If you want to see 'dramaticness' in its full glory, then look at Qa'im Chandpuri's treatment of this same theme. His first line has somewhat fallen prey to verbosity; otherwise, his verse is beyond Mir's:

us sabze kii :tara;h se kih ho rah-gu;zaar par
raundan me;N ek ;xalq kii yaa;N ham male ga))e

[like that greenery that would be on the roadway
in the trampling of all creation, here, we were crushed

Qa'im's verse in any case is a fit companion for Mir's. The word raundan is very fresh. Zahir Dihlavi too has versified it with this very theme, but Qa'im holds the prize of superiority and primacy. Zahir Dihlavi:

kyuu;N ahl-e rozgaar kii raundan me;N aa gayaa
mai;N ;xaak-e rah-gu;zar huu;N nah sabzah gayaah kaa

[why did I come under the trampling of the people of the world?
I am the dust of the roadway, not the greenery of grass]

[See also {352,2}.]



As SRF points out, this simple observation in the past tense at once feels universal: it makes itself felt as applying to past, present, and future. And in addition, this simple observation describing only the speaker also makes itself felt as applying to everybody. There's an impersonality, an inevitability, to it all: how could grass in the roadway ever be imagined not to be instantly doomed? Yet with the monsoons, how could grass not helplessly spring up to meet this doom?

Compared to the handful of aristocratic, elegant, pampered flowers in the garden, who get to live out their whole natural life cycle before meeting their own doom, the countless humble roadway grass-blades (or more probably weed-stalks) are like poor peasants whose fate is immediate and endless oppression. They are the common greenery, born into a hopeless situation, 'foot-fodder', guaranteed a quick doom.

In this setting, sar u;Thaanaa has a special pathos. It can't help but evoke the Persianized sar-kashii , 'drawing the head [upward]' as a sign of 'rebellion, arrogance, insolence' (Platts p.648). The classic punishment for such 'high-headedness' is to have the head cut off; the allegorical imagery here goes straight back to Herodotus and Aristotle.

Yet of course here the helpless greenery, far from being arrogant, is barely 'lifting its head' in its earliest growth when it receives such a mortally severe and entirely unwarranted punishment. As SRF observes, without a single unnecessary word, without the smallest concession to emotional language, the 'dramaticness' of the verse makes us feel the poignancy of the tiny grass-blades' doom.